The Winners of the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Prize Winner 2017

Silvia Arber

Winner of the 2017 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine

Video Portrat of Silvia Arber

Silvia Arber was born in 1968 in Geneva and studied biology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. She graduated in 1995 with a doctorate in the laboratory of Pico Caroni at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI) in Basel. After a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Thomas Jessell at Columbia University in New York, she returned to Basel in 2000 to establish her independent research group on neuronal circuits controlling motor behavior. She holds a joint appointment as a Professor of Neurobiology at the Biozentrum and a Senior group leader at the FMI in Basel.

Silvia Arber was elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) in 2005. She is also a member of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Academia Europaea. She has been recognized for her outstanding research with numerous prizes, including the Pfizer Research Prize (1998), the National Latsis Prize (2003), the Friedrich Miescher Award (2008), and the Otto Naegeli Prize (2014).

Circuits for Movement

Animals carry out an enormous repertoire of distinct actions, spanning from seemingly simple repetitive tasks like walking to more complex movements requiring fine motor skills. The central nervous system, composed of the brain and spinal cord, integrates information received from the body and coordinates its activity. Within the central nervous system, neurons never function in isolation, they are organised into neuronal circuits which are at the core of choosing, maintaining, adjusting and terminating distinct motor behaviours to coordinate movement.

Over the last decade, Silvia Arber’s laboratory has demonstrated that neuronal circuits are organized into precise modules by functional subdivision at multiple levels of the motor system, including the spinal cord and the brainstem. Thus, precisely connected neuronal subpopulations in the motor system align with the distinct behavioural functions, allowing for functional subdivision of labour and diversification of motor programs. Silvia Arber’s work provides important insight into the mechanisms and organizational principles responsible for the establishment and function of the motor system. She has decisively contributed to a better understanding of how neuronal circuits control and orchestrate movement.